It’s All in the Script – 5 Tips for Better Reading

Have you ever read a book, magazine or newspaper and wondered why the type is so small? It’s because the publishers are trying to maximize space and cram as many words onto a page as they can. There are websites that do the same. The tiny text makes it difficult to read. Thankfully, most browsers have the capability to easily magnify the size of the text.

Scripts can have issues with type size as well, along with other unhelpful formatting, that make for difficult reading. You’ll want to encourage your client to provide you with their best script possible. When you receive a script that is formatted to be easily read, your client is doing you a huge favor and will make your session run more smoothly.

Here are 5 suggestions you can share with your client that will make their scrips more approachable.

  1. Use a readable font. Every once in a while I’ll receive a script with an unusual font. Comic Sans comes to mind along with any font that emulates handwriting or calligraphy. Suggest a font that was meant to be printed, such as Garamond, Georgia, New York, Times and Times New Roman. The reason serif fonts are preferable is because people can differentiate each letter more clearly.

  2. Increase the size. Typically when I’m reading a script, it’s on a copy stand or held a good distance up and away from my microphone. That’s why the point size should be between 14 and 16. You will find this easier to read than most text application’s default size of 12 point.

  3. Double space text. When I get a script I’ll usually take a pencil and start marking it up for my benefit in the booth. To give me room for added notes and marks, double space lines are a necessity. Single spaced text is next to impossible to read after it’s been treated to markups.

  4. Ask for phonetic helpers. You might not know how to say every word in the script you receive. Error on the side of caution and ask for phonetic (fəˈnetik or fe ne tick) guides for uncommon names of people, places and things. If you come across an acronym, ask whether it should be spelled or pronounced. Reading the script with your client over the phone is a great way to identify words that need a helper.

  5. Confirm that you have an approved final script. Noting sets a session back quicker and can add additional costs than receiving a script that has not been approved. Take a moment to verify with all stakeholders that what you’re about to record is in final form. Sure, there’ll be occasions when a line needs to be changed but that can be handled easily with a pick-up of just that line.

  6. *Bonus tip: Request that the script be formatted using Microsoft Word. Ask your client to provide Word formatted scripts. If you receive a script with none of the tips from above applied, at least you’ll receive a file format that can be easily manipulated if needed. PDF files are the least desirable because of their inability to be easily reformatted. Copy and past from a PDF can end in disastrous, sometimes unreadable results.

What makes a script more readable or less desirable for you? Feel free to share both the good and bad examples.

8 thoughts on “It’s All in the Script – 5 Tips for Better Reading

  1. Antland Productions June 22, 2012 / 5:16 am

    Excellent tips – perfect. I might add that when you get your word document, after you resize to 14 or 16 font size, you go through the text and adjust where your line breaks occur. This will really help because your eyes are ‘scanning ahead’. Try to make it so that each new sentence begins as a new line if possible. If not, break the line at a logical point i.e. after a comma or other punctuation. Sometimes you may also find the need to adjust your right margin so that a sentence or phrase can be complete on the same line and not onto the next line, or at least to help create a more logical spot for this to happen.

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    • JCDunn June 22, 2012 / 4:04 pm

      Roy-

      Yes, of course! I totally agree. I just did that today with a script after formatting to a larger point size.

      I’ve been playing with portrait vs. landscape for scripts and found that portrait works best for me. It’s easier for me to track the shorter lines. Thanks for stopping by and subscribing!

      -J.

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  2. Cliff Zellman June 22, 2012 / 7:53 am

    Yes X 6! I totally agree with all your points. I am an 18 pt. font guy myself. And I think rule #1 should be ALWAYS double space. Thanks!

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    • JCDunn June 22, 2012 / 4:15 pm

      Cliff-

      I’m at 14 point but feel that my eyes are hungry for bigger text. What do think, should we charge for having to reformat scripts so they are more legible? 😉 Thanks for taking a moment out of your busy day to read my blog.

      -J.

      Like

  3. Tommy Thompson, The Voice Pro June 22, 2012 / 9:02 am

    Excellent tips, Chris! I think the most important one is #5, about receiving the script in MS Word format (or some other editable format). Even when I see a finished script, I almost always reformat it for effective reading across pages. The result is fewer takes and a more efficient use of time in the studio.

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    • JCDunn June 22, 2012 / 4:25 pm

      Tommy-

      I came across a script today that was adding additional text when I copied and pasted the text to a new document. It was driving me nuts! I found that my client had “Track Changes” enabled for the script. There had been a number of revisions, and non of them had been accepted. So, when I received the script it was displaying “Final” but none of the edits had been accepted. After I accepted the edits, I was able to copy/past the intended text. Very complicated but I did learn something about Word today.

      Thanks for reading my blog!
      -J.

      Like

  4. howardellison June 23, 2012 / 1:07 pm

    Great distilled experience here, thanks guys. I also find pdf a bind – you can usually paste it to up the size and spacing, but then all italics go plain. On normal Word or Pages stuff, when re-paginating for bigger type, I find it handy to retain the original page numbers in some form, for author/producer discussion. My next step – go with the flow, save trees and get an iPad plus markup software.

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    • JCDunn June 23, 2012 / 3:17 pm

      Howard-

      Adding the page numbers is one way to keep you and the author/producer in sync. Another way is to send them a copy after you’ve done the reformatting.

      While the article was targeted at VO folks who print their scripts, I use and iPad exclusively. There are fonts that work better in digital form. If find that sans-serif fonts work best.

      Ciao
      J.

      Like

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